Talk Hole is the bi-weekly spoken column of New York’s alt-comedy darlings Eric Schwartau and Steven Phillips-Horst, offering their oracular powers of cultural analysis on all corners of the zeitgeist (high, low, top, bottom). From a call between Brooklyn and Fire Island, Schwartau and P-H (as Steven is lovingly referred) prove talk is chic and drop references to hot trends, hotter temperatures, and scalding political debates. This time around, Talk Hole gives us the 2020 convention recap we never knew we wanted.
ERIC SCHWARTAU: I thought we could just chat for a bit. I haven’t really caught up with you. I don’t know what you’re up to lately.
STEVEN P-H: Well, I suppose we can start with the obvious: you’re in a wood-fired sauna.
SCHWARTAU: I’m at a house in Cherry Grove, which is the Berkeley of Fire Island. There’s a rickety outdoor shower and a clawfoot bathtub in the backyard. There’s overgrown grape vines and birds—it’s very beautiful.
P-H: Does this mean that The Pines is Oakland?
SCHWARTAU: I think The Pines is San Francisco. It’s overpriced, it’s over. No one’s gay anymore, but everyone’s a fag, and you need very expensive designer drugs to have a good time. Everyone’s in tech. And by tech I mean OnlyFans.
P-H: Much like San Francisco, Fire Island is built on a gay memory, a floating raft of nostalgia for pre-AIDS hedonism. An isthmus of expensive real estate awash in bushy mustaches and short-shorts. Both communities still cling to the idea that a stray, closeted Midwestern teen might wander into the town square like an escaped calf from a nearby dairy farm—confused, hopeful, in need of an older leather daddy to brand him. But the reality is those boys have Grindr, and they’ve already done puppy play by freshman year of high school.
SCHWARTAU: You’d feel better about Fire Island if you had come. And by come I mean cum. Also, it’s an island, not an isthmus, a word which I dare you to say five times fast. Cherry Grove is less puppy play and more obedience school. There’s a lot of lesbian moms here with badly behaved dogs that like to bark at gay men. I’m generalizing, but one dog was just barking at me.
P-H: So one dog means “a lot.”
SCHWARTAU: But despite that trauma, I think it would be good to do our column just, you know, for posterity’s sake.
P-H: I’ve never understood what that word means, “posterity.”
SCHWARTAU: I confess I don’t know what “sake” is either.
P-H: Sake. It’s never just posterity coming over for a nightcap—she’s always got that sake with her.
SCHWARTAU: Posterity’s Saké.
P-H: Oh my god, what a good name for a sake bar.
SCHWATAU: Bars… now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.
P-H: Well, I have a confession. I went to an indoor, informal gathering last night and, within minutes, gender-neutral Zoomers I’ve never met were kissing me on the cheek and offering me drugs.
SCHWARTAU: A gender-neutral kiss on the cheek. I don’t see that on the government-issued COVID risk assessment chart. I’m going to lump it in with “playing tennis.”
P-H: Tennis is very non-binary—balls are flying everywhere, but to whom do they belong? But what I’m saying is that for many folks, the indoors are already back. I also heard gossip about bars from someone whose friend owns one.
SCHWARTAU: So this was investigative journalism.
P-H: Yes, and I’m Deep Throat. Here’s what the Zoomer said: while many small businesses have sadly evaporated, little bars on corners are doing better than ever, and here’s why—the 2 extra sidewalk spaces for outdoor seating give them way more capacity than the tiny interior ever did. So their numbers are skyrocketing higher than Florida’s hospitalization rate.
SCHWARTAU: I have no doubt corners are back in a huge way. But I’m also seeing little hole-in-the-wall spots I never even noticed, emerging from their dimly lit chrysalises into beautiful outdoor seating butterflies.
P-H: Speaking of dim, have you watched the RNC?
SCHWARTAU: I caught the livestream on Twitter where a ghost pirate in a tricorne hat was repping Delaware. I loved the DNC roll call so I tuned in for the RNC one—I thought it might be a very well-produced affair, but everyone had the same backdrop, which was not as cute. My favorite was Connecticut. She goes, “We’re the nutmeg state and we’re casting 28 spicy votes for Donald J. Trump.”
P-H: It’s very RNC to imagine nutmeg as a habanero-level spice.
SCHWARTAU: It’s more of a negligée spice in my opinion. Barely there.
P-H: My experience with nutmeg is confined to a Dark and Stormy, which is a drink that my mom likes me to make for her. You add rum, ginger beer, and then a little grated nutmeg on top to convince yourself you’re living the New England WASP life of your dreams, even though you’re from L.A..
SCHWARTAU: The image of you bringing your mother a Dark and Stormy—add that to your stump speech.
P-H: Stump and Trump rhyme! No one talks about this. Ironic, considering both him and Epstein are alleged to have somewhat stumpy dicks.
SCHWARTAU: Was surprised not to see Ghislaine [Maxwell] on the RNC speaker list.
P-H: We can green screen her in on Melania’s dress.
SCHWARTAU: Ivanka probably told her she looked good. As Tara Reid famously said in our column, never trust another woman saying you look good. It’s all a competition.
P-H: Competition for a go at daddy’s widdle stumpy wump.
SCHWARTAU: Trump is becoming a real cult leader. As Kimberly Guilfoyle said, “The Best is Yet to Come!” Trump has blue balls.
P-H: Kimberly is the only person in the party with charisma. If she was the nominee, they’d win in a landslide. Actually, wait—I just got my edits back from Vanity Fair, and they took out all my good jokes. Maybe I can put those in here? They wouldn’t let me say Pence was jacking off backstage while Karen watched to make sure he didn’t finish before he recited 3 rosaries. I couldn’t say cops beat their wives. I couldn’t say the gun couple looked like they’d just finished a session with one of Jeff Epstein’s girls. I couldn’t even call Charlie Kirk a “a moon-faced banshee with beady features clustered so close to the center of his face, a COVID mask might render him blind.” To me, that’s just science.
SCHWARTAU: No lies detected. I don’t know who Charlie Kirk is, but personally I am attracted to wide-set eyes.
P-H: You prefer what we in the industry call “shark eyes.” Where they’re so far apart they can’t see you when you kiss.
SCHWARTAU: Devour me like the horny little harbor seal that I am.
P-H: The entire RNC was a Shark Tank pitch-fevered Trump praise parade. In the roll call, they’d be like, “And here in Montana, which we call Trumptana, we love Montrumpa, and we are the Trumpettes. My WAP is bleeding shrapnel for Trump. We cast 70 Trumps for Trump.” Like, okay, simmer down—he’s not gonna fuck you!
SCHWARTAU: Okay, my references give away that I only watched states A through D, but Arkansas was like, “Home of Walmart and Crooked Hillary.”
P-H: They should install a really rickety roller coaster called the Crooked Hillary at that Walmart-funded contemporary art museum. It throws you off at the end and you fly into a Jeff Koons dog. If you survive, you get a wallet-sized photo of your fat ass in mid-air for only $29.99.
SCHWARTAU: Speaking of places with needlessly extravagant art museums: Milwaukee.
P-H: Right, home of the Bucks—which, according to my sources, is a basketball team.
SCHWARTAU: You know, I was a big Bucks fan when I was young and collected basketball cards. I even had a Bucks jersey. It was the last stand of my nurtured heterosexuality.
P-H: So this is you retroactively supporting the strike.
SCHWARTAU: Yes, I proudly support boycotts of things I don’t watch. And now if the Milwaukee Art Museum could take a hint and stop flapping its mechanical wings for one goddamn second. The museum flaps its “wings” every hour. Kind of the extent of excitement in Wisconsin.
P-H: Sort of like how that long, womb-like rift in the Oculus opens up every year on 9/11?
SCHWARTAU: When an art museum flaps its wings in Milwaukee, a local police department buys an armored tank in Kenosha. The neoliberal butterfly effect.
P-H: Here’s a take: the Republicans don’t want power. Neither do the Democrats. They both want to absolve responsibility for everything and cocoon themselves in a warm bath of identitarian grievances. The problem is who that power then gets outsourced to—in the case of the right, now it’s white nationalist militias, which is far more dangerous for the country than the HR-compliance scolds of the left.
SCHWARTAU: Outsourced to armored art museums with tear gas dealers on the board.
P-H: Not anymore! Now the Whitney is pure, remember?
SCHWARTAU: And yet they’re canceled again.
P-H: It’s amusing that they decided that Instagram posts from six weeks ago are now ephemera and can be used in an art show without them paying for it, or even asking. I can see that making sense if it’s a flyer from the ’80s, but these things are still accruing likes!
SCHWARTAU: The Whitney is free to use any of my selfies. This reminds me of how news orgs always reply to hurricane footage tweets asking for permission.
P-H: Who is Hurricane Laura’s agent?
SCHWARTAU: She was amazing at the RNC. We need more strong female hurricanes!
P-H: Trump has done more for women hurricanes than anybody.
SCHWARTAU: Speaking of female hurricanes: Claudia Conway.
P-H: And now she got her mom fired.
SCHWARTAU: Twitter’s black magic. She manifested what she wanted, but at what cost?
P-H: At the cost of Marianne Williamson telling her to go to counseling.
SCHWARTAU: And she’s right! If I had Twitter when I was fifteen, who knows what would have happened? Maybe I would have quit the tennis team earlier.
P-H: Marianne is correct.
SCHWARTAU: I generally side with Marianne, in every instance.
P-H: I think Claudia Conway bit from the forbidden fruit that everyone in our era is tempted by, which is: how can I weaponize my own life experience to become famous or controversial or call someone out and elevate myself in the process?
SCHWARTAU: We need a weaponized life experience disarmament treaty.
P-H: I do think Kellyanne Conway leaving the White House could harm Trump’s chances, because she is talented. A lot of folks who’ve never worked in politics—no shade to everyone who isn’t me—don’t realize a lot of political people just work in communications. Kellyanne is a comms girl and is no different from a random PR hoe who works at Nike or Time Warner.
SCHWARTAU: I would say PR is the weaponization of communications and can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
P-H: I’m not saying that the Trump administration isn’t making bad decisions, but a lot of people who work in comms are not the people making those decisions.
SCHWARTAU: Do you think the messenger should be shot?
P-H: I think the messenger should be forced to strip.
SCHWARTAU: Ooh, it’s getting nutmeg-level hot in here.
P-H: Did you watch the DNC?
SCHWARTAU: As I stated, I loved the roll call. It was this really cute video art group show, or like when the Drag Race contestants have to make their own perfume ad.
P-H: It’s sort of outsider art—folk art, even. When you get enough regular people who never went to RISD, there’s a really wonderful opportunity to create art. It’s like how for gay boys, the ceramics building at summer camp was a refuge from having to play sports and feel physically aggressive with other men. But what about all those sports boys? When do they get to be artistic? I think a lot of people wish they had more creative outlets—they enjoy having that space to be vulnerable. We should give people more assignments like this. I think it’s called soft power.
SCHWARTAU: So, soft power means ceramics? The Economist found dead.
P-H: Remember our one-year anniversary of our comedy show, years and years ago? We had a bunch of comedians and even the owners of our beautiful Chinese-Italian fusion restaurant in Chinatown send us little selfie videos all saying the word “one.” You get to show off your own personality with that one stipulation. You get to choose what you’re wearing. You get to choose the background. You get to choose the way you say the word. I think this speaks to the concept of limits. Limits are really important. Limits help you create art.
SCHWARTAU: It was very American because every state was given the same parameters but it was the states that bent the rules you remember. Also, 1 in 5 Americans have been on Hoarders and/or House Hunters and we are generally a camera-ready people. I liked Montana’s video, which had a zaftig girl wearing a peasant top with cows in the background. The wind was blowing and making it hard to hear, which I thought was very authentic.
P-H: And Nebraska had that woman wearing the white tiger mask.
SCHWARTAU: Very outsider. She was a meatpacking plant worker. And then there was the artist formerly known as Mayor Pete, who looked like he still works at McKinsey.
P-H: Well, Indiana really wants to sell itself as a whiteboard—an empty canvas for random tech/water/HR compliance companies that need open plan offices.
SCHWARTAU: So open they don’t even exist. His camera angle looked evil, shot from down below like that.
P-H: He has a bit of a Napoleon complex. There was something deeply uninspiring about all the celebrities who were sort of vaguely hosting. It was very needy.
SCHWARTAU: As if having Eva Longoria as a host meant anything except that the DNC thinks it’s still 2008.
P-H: In their defense, Desperate Housewives is probably in syndication, and many people might think it’s still on the air. There were, like, 36 seasons of that show.
SCHWARTAU: And Joe Biden accepted the nomination in what looked like the basement of a middle school library. Then his grandkids ran over and popped streamers that got stuck in the fluorescent lights. The one DNC celeb I did like was Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
P-H: I would die to meet her. Her and Lisa Kudrow are the two funniest actresses in history. But she’s also a billionaire heiress.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, I figured. Usually when someone has two last names that means old money. I’m not going to name any names, but you can’t spell Phillips without Horst.
P-H: Tell that to the standardized forms without enough letterboxes! It’s always “PHILLIPS-HO” or “PHILLIPS-HOR.” You couldn’t pick a better way to show the Democrats are out of touch with middle America than a group of really rich actresses in bell-bottomed power suits telling you to vote for the “soul of America.”
SCHWARTAU: It’s like, we’ll definitely win as long as Katy Perry is booked at Javits for the victory balloon drop. Ultimately, I think most people just want to be entertained.
P-H: I mean, the pandemic actually is really scary and people don’t want to be scared anymore. It’s not off-base to go with fear, especially because people have not felt comforted by Trump at all. People voted Trump in for a sense of anarchy—they were sick of false promises from politicians. But his unpredictable, off-the-cuff realism no longer seems appealing. There is a sense of “maybe I do just want this 1950s/’80s Nantucket/Delaware zombie who will tell me that everything’s going to be okay.” Maybe we want daddy back.
SCHWARTAU: Now there’s a slogan.
P-H: Bring Daddy Back?
SCHWARTAU: It makes more sense than Build Back Better.
P-H: And easier to say! Next topic: my new chair. I bought this vintage chair yesterday at a shoppé in Greenpoint and I asked if they deliver. The store girl was just like, “Oh, you should just ghost Uber.” And she was acting as if “ghost Uber” was this term that everyone is familiar with.
SCHWARTAU: I get it. But it also brings up the invisibility of app-based labor.
P-H: Yeah, it was a little too on the nose. But the “ghost” here doesn’t refer to the driver—it’s about the lack of passengers in the car. The chair is the ghost.
SCHWARTAU: Which the driver has to unload…
P-H: Excuse you. The driver did no loading or unloading. If anything, it was a more pleasant drive for him because he didn’t have to listen to me talking to myself.
SCHWARTAU: Of course, the driver is a ghost to most people, because they see Uber as a service that just magically takes you where you need to go.
P-H: Right, and the further we isolate and sanitize and pandemicize, the more service workers become ghosts in relation to the customer. I mean, in the Uber now, with that big old plastic screen up, both masked up, you can’t even make small talk if you try.
SCHWARTAU: Guess I’ll just ask myself where I’m from then.
P-H: She posts on her story, “Did you know Telfar is Bronx-born, LGBTQPOC, NY-born and raised, etc” and then two days later she posts the inside of her Telfar captioned “here’s what I bring to Congress” like we’re on page 22 of Cosmo. And I’m like, “Okay, so you’re just fully an influencer now.”
SCHWARTAU: Well, it’s interesting that Ivanka can hold up a can of Goya and we say it’s against ethics rules, but AOC can stan Telfar and we don’t have a problem with that.
P-H: I never said I was okay with Ivanka being a Goya shill. Our political leaders should never support brands. Although I guess according to ethics laws, certain gifts under a certain amount are allowed. It’s only a $250 bag. It’s not a Birkin. New topic—there’s this trend going around about guys with really big ears being hot, which I agree with.
SCHWARTAU: It’s not a trend, Steven, it’s just what you and I think. At some point, you and I were peddling a theory that men with big ears and oversize facial features have oversize dicks. Ultimately, I think we can agree protrusion is hot.
P-H: With most guys—and this is sad for me—I’m never gonna even see their dicks. So the ear is all I can hold on to, so to speak.
SCHWARTAU: There’s a certain floppy stuffed animal quality to big appendages. Also, we see a lot of people via social media these days, and exaggerated features stand out more on camera, so that’s why we’re attracted to big ears.
P-H: It’s not about subtlety anymore. People are getting their nose jobs undone. Trend alert! You need a real honker to show up on Zoom. We’re all drag queens with the full Trixie Mattel makeup. Wait, do you like my new tattoo? [Steven shows off arm with “Tulsi” written on a heart].
SCHWARTAU: I’m very into it, but I’m personally terrified of tattoos due to commitment issues I’m in therapy for. It’s really sweet of you to memorialize the fish that you had for three months.
P-H: I had her for a year.
SCHWARTAU: Sorry. Time just doesn’t exist anymore.
P-H: Dean Kissick said recently that linear time is over, which I buy. Tweets from 2013 suddenly go viral because one person shares it again. And obviously, days of the week are sort of over now that you can’t go clubbing on Friday.
SCHWARTAU: So time is measured in tweets, faves, likes.
P-H: Time is how much seltzer you have in the fridge.
SCHWARTAU: Well, I’m two Limoncello La Croixs away from death. You know, the question of time has been on millennial minds ever since that Christopher Nolan film Memento came out in 2000.
P-H: Isn’t he doing that new one that everyone is talking about?
P-H: Is it coming out in real life, or on our TVs?
SCHWARTAU: It’s coming out as a hot take. Everyone will just suddenly have opinions about it without seeing it. Anyways, I’m not planning on setting foot in a theater anytime soon. I’m both hunkering down for the second wave and exposing myself to everyone to achieve herd immunity.
P-H: My friend was saying she gets tested every week.
SCHWARTAU: And she’s suddenly an epidemiological expert?
P-H: The more you get tested, the more of a scientist you do become.
SCHWARTAU: I mean, all my current beliefs come from me reading three n+1 articles on the beach.
P-H: That’s very Trump. You just believe in the last thing you read.
SCHWARTAU: Articles are brain worms.
P-H: Well, we’ve been talking for like an hour, so I think our readers are infected.
SCHWARTAU: Farewell, my little brain worm.